Viljo Revell’s Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square (1965) is a well-loved Modernist icon. Completed after his death, the heritage-designated square was true to the spatial arrangement Revell had envisioned; over time, however, it had become run-down and dysfunctional. In 2006, the City of Toronto launched an international competition to redesign NPS. The winning design strategically rethinks the Square to transform it into an exemplary 21st-Century public space, drawing inspiration from Revell’s own references to classical Athenian political spaces. Through the redesign or relocation of existing elements and a new series of buildings and gardens framing the open plaza, the NPS Revitalization enhances the functionality, versatility, and appeal of Toronto’s signature civic space while augmenting this monumental heritage site’s “connectedness” to its surroundings.

View of the theatre from the east (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
View of the theatre at midday
View of the theatre stage (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
View of the stage from the elevated walkways
View of the theatre (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The theatre at dusk

Revell’s elevated walkways frame the Square and focus views towards the council chamber – as in the Athenian agora, the threshold of a porch (stoa) at the perimeter clearly defined the interior void. This definition was never fully developed, however, in NPS as built. To strengthen the coherence of the Square, the design team executed four tactical moves:

  1. Open the Square – remove clutter at the centre to accommodate all kinds of large cultural gatherings
  2. Create programmed, porous, landscaped “green rooms” around the perimeter to frame the square
  3. Create new activated connections between the raised walkway and the Square
  4. Strengthen links between levels and between zones using new architecture as the bridge to connect the two levels of the square
Disappearing fountains (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Disappearing fountains
Stage and skate pavilion align to frame the square (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Stage and skate pavilion align to frame the square

Major architectural components include the redesigned Skate Pavilion and creation of a permanent Stage with back-of-house suspended below in the parking garage. All new structures are multi-purpose and connect to the walkways. The glass-canopied, terraced form of the theatre provides covered public space and casual seating when not in use for performances, and its stairs connect the raised walkway to the Square. Small events can take place with performers facing westward toward stairs that double as bleacher seating; for larger events, those on the stage face eastward to overlook the entire Square.

View of the skate pavilion looking southwest (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The skate pavilion in the summer
Skate pavilion upper level terrace (photo: Steven Evans Photpgraphy)
Skate pavilion upper level terrace · Photo: Steven Evans Photpgraphy
Skate pavilion breezeway (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Skate pavilion breezeway
View of the skate pavilion from the southwest (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Skate pavilion breezeway

A Peace Garden added in 1983 near the centre of the Square had compromised the space’s openness and ability to accommodate crowds – relocating it to the western edge freed up the Square’s centre for larger events. The terraced seating of the new Peace Garden is a major structure that conceals the underground parking garage’s exhaust duct while muffling its sound and redirecting the airflow. Other elements include a playground redesign, a new Sculpture Garden, a new forecourt along Queen Street, and a future two-storey restaurant. Although not yet completed, the master plan includes refurbishing the existing elevated walkways with gardens and seating.

Peace garden at night (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Peace garden at night
Peace garden (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Peace garden
Queen Street streetscape (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Queen Street streetscape
Playground (photo: Steven Evans Photography)

Prior to the revitalization, City Hall’s podium was a grim, paved void: it is now Toronto’s largest publicly accessible green roof, a popular urban retreat for sitting and strolling. The Podium Roof Garden’s plantings, which change seasonally from bright yellows and oranges in the southwest to deep reds and purples in the northeast, were chosen to thrive in the site’s challenging shade and wind conditions.

Podium roof garden (photo: Peter Schaudt)
Podium roof garden · Photo: Peter Schaudt
The Podium green roof from above (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The Podium green roof from above
The garden in fall (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The garden in fall
The garden in spring (photo: Gabriel Li)
The garden in spring · Photo: Gabriel Li
Entry to the sculpture garden (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Entry to the sculpture garden
Stair beacons (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Stair beacons
Nuit Blanche (the next day) (photo: Steven Evans Photograpy)
Nuit Blanche (the next day) · Photo: Steven Evans Photograpy

Peace Garden

publiccivicparkgardengreen roofmemorialgraphics

nps-pg-2016-03-8 (photo: Steven Evans Photography)

project index

  1. A Conversation of Views
  2. Admiral Road Garden
  3. Airdrie Road Residence
  4. Albany Avenue Residence
  5. Aporia Records
  6. Asphalt Poetry
  7. – Poem
  8. Baby Point Gardens
  9. Beach Garden
  10. Beach Village BIA Master Plan
  11. Beaty Residence
  12. Bennington Heights Garden
  13. Berkeley Street Residence
  14. Bin-Scarth Garden
  15. Blink and you miss it.
  16. – Poem
  17. Blue Note
  18. Booth Avenue Residence
  19. Boustrophedon Garden
  20. Braemore Gardens Residence
  21. Browning Avenue Residence
  22. Brunswick Avenue Residence
  23. Camp Arowhon Offices
  24. Canadian Firefighters Memorial
  25. Centre for Teaching and Learning, UBCO
  26. Channelled Buried Moved Lost
  27. Chocolate Loft
  28. City Instrument
  29. Clarendon Garden
  30. Conversation Piece
  31. Creemore Farm
  32. Danforth Mosaic BIA Master Plan
  33. Dickson Park Garden
  34. Dilworth Residence
  35. Don Landing Revitalization
  36. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  37. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  38. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  39. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  40. Eglinton Park Master Plan
  41. Elizabeth Fry Society
  42. Ellsworth Residence
  43. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  44. First Avenue Garden
  45. Foote’s Pond Wood
  46. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  47. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  48. Goldring Landscape
  49. Gormley Garden
  50. Governor's Bridge Lookout
  51. Greener P
  52. Greer Road Garden
  53. Greer Road Residence
  54. Guelph Bridge
  55. Head in the Clouds
  56. Helena Ave Residence 4
  57. Junction Craft Brewery
  58. Kelpies Competition
  59. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  60. Le jardin du repos
  61. Lenticular Curtain
  62. Liza’s Garden
  63. Lynwood Garden
  64. Macroscape
  65. Markham Garden One
  66. Markham Street Residence Two
  67. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  68. Nathan Phillips Square
  69. – Streetscape
  70. – Peace Garden
  71. – Podium Roof Garden
  72. Orchard View Garden
  73. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  74. Owl Cottage
  75. Paperstone Scissors
  76. Peripheral Sitings
  77. Pottery Road Crossing
  78. rare
  79. Ravine Forecourt
  80. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  81. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  82. Roxborough Garden One
  83. Roxborough Garden Two
  84. Ryerson Centre for Urban Innovation
  85. Sheridan College
  86. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  87. Spadina Quay Wetland
  88. St. Anne's Road Garden
  89. Stratford Market Square Competition
  90. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  91. Superkids Dental
  92. Superlegible
  93. Sweet Farm
  94. Sweet Farm Pond House
  95. Swift Medical Offices
  96. The Meadows Reconsidered
  97. The Red Sash
  98. Thick & Thin
  99. Tipping Point
  100. Tranby Garden
  101. Tree House Residence
  102. UTM Welcome Landscape
  103. Venice Biennale 2012
  104. Vermont Square Park
  105. Vernon Avenue Garden
  106. Walk the Walk
  107. Walmer Road Residence
  108. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  109. Wells Street Residence
  110. Westminster Residence
  111. With Words as Their Actions
  112. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  113. Woven Stories
  114. York Park